A Conversation with Neural Shifts Founder & Chief Behavioral Strategist Venus Rekow
Venus is a behavioral architect, researcher, and leadership facilitator whose passion lies in helping leaders drive behavior change by translating scientific insights into actionable best practices.
She conducts research on psychological safety and leadership practices to help her clients strengthen their organizational cultures.
As the founder of Neural Shifts, she uses her behavioral analytical skills to get to the root of behavior and facilitate meaningful and lasting change. She holds a B.S. in psychology from Boise State University; a M.S. in Organizational Development from Seattle University; completed coursework for a M.S. in Neuroscience from University of Oberta, Spain; and is a Certified executive coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, the Neuroleadership Institute & the International Coaching Federation.
Q: After you completed your education, where did you feel your career path would take you?
VR: I don’t think at my young age, I could have imagined how my passion for neuroscience intersects with the organizational systems work that I now do.
Q: Why did you decide to start Neural Shifts? For those in our audience familiar with your company, can you share some of the services you provide?
VR: I saw very few Latinx individuals in positions of leadership due to a lack of opportunity and support. Also, I noticed management decisions were disconnected from scientific insights. So, I started Neural shifts with a mission to increase leadership representation for communities of color and create systemic change using science to transform organizational systems.
Neural Shifts is a consulting firm specialized in driving behavior change at scale to create diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces. We are passionate about translating scientific insights into management practices to improve the state of the world.
Q: Were there moments in your career that were pivotal to getting where you are today?
VR: Pivotal moments for me are those when we break our own rules to create a new reality. I had a rule to never leave a job before completing the first year. Several years ago, I was working in a company with a toxic culture and decided to break that rule. It took a lot of mental anguish and power to overcome the fear of not having a job line up. Nevertheless, it was the best decision of my life. It prepared me to make the same decision again while having a stable job to launch my business.
Q: What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute to your success?
VR: It’s a combination of attributes & philosophies that leads to my success.
Starting with my learning attitude. I’m deeply curious and spent countless hours reading scientific literature and experimenting with ideas to create frameworks that help me make sense of people’s behaviors. Seeking clarity to achieve my goals and being persistent are key to my success.
Lastly, some of the philosophies I live by are “no job is beneath you” & “every situation or person has something to teach you.” With this in mind, I adopt a positive attitude towards any job I have to do and try to see every situation as an opportunity for learning even when I faced difficulty.
When I meet people, I actively listed for their gifts to understand what they are here to teach me and how I may support their journey.
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
VR: Allyship in large numbers is key whether through sponsorship or mentorship. Drive collaboration and partnerships across the organization to raise awareness of your work. Use your voice to not only speak up but influence decision-making processes. Resist the urge to conform to the male stereotype of a leader. Lastly, disrupt gender bias by supporting other women with access to opportunities, championing them, and ensuring pay equity.
Q: How can women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations?
VR: Women can use their ability to collaborate & create strong networks of allies inside the organization and across their industries to rise. Women need to be clear on how power is acquired in their organizations & execute a strategy to become influential. They can create a strong brand that is visible inside and outside their organization in platforms like LinkedIn to drive high visibility. Also, they need to avoid operating from the fallacy that “hard work” equates merit. And lastly, become a trailblazer opening the path for other women to follow to ultimately achieve gender equity.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
VR: Dr. Kelly Ramirez and Dr. Jane Zelikova founders of 500 Women Scientist. First, they are both incredible scientists and second global community leaders with a vision to improve the state of the world for women. I have the privilege to work with them last year and saw first-hand how they approach their work with humility & openness supporting women around the world. They are working hard to create a diverse and inclusive community that supports transgender women and women of color scientists.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
VR: First, project yourself and make a plan. “Design your life story in 10-year increments.” Second: get clarity on your top 3 values to make workplace decisions that align with it. Third, be clear on your top three strengths & find ways to align to projects that let you shine. Fourth, find ways to step out of your comfort zone engaging in projects that give you a new ability & high visibility. And last, leave any manager that doesn’t care to develop you to the next level.
Three Things About Venus Rekow
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
Pema Chodron, because I admire her constant pursuit of spiritual growth. I love that she demystifies the spiritual journey and conveys her message with humility and humor.
2. What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I did tandem skydiving with zero time to psychologically prepare for the experience after my husband surprised me and drove me to a place to jump.
3. What app can’t you live without?
Libby, it’s the library app.